Getting married every single year was becoming a pain in the ass. Especially for the maid of honor.
“I really didn’t think he was serious about a yearly wedding.” Eliza Havens fiddled with the edges of the yellow chiffon bridesmaid dress, which had entirely too many yards of material. The damn thing belonged on a slow talking southern belle, complete with parasol and white ribbons, not on her as she stood up for her best friend…again.
“It’s romantic,” Gwen offered.
Samantha and Blake were going on two years of marriage and already had little Eddie. At first when Blake announced he was going to marry Sam every year on their anniversary in a different state, Eliza had thought it was sweet. Now after a full week of non-stop wedding planning, she and Gwen, Blake’s sister, were sweating it out in San Antonio planning their big Texas-themed wedding. Except Gwen was English and entirely misguided about Texas. Where there should be cowboy hats and western flavor attire, everything had turned south. Deep south. More like a scene from Gone With the Wind than Dallas.
“Don’t fret, Eliza. They won’t all be this grand.” It took some time to get used to Gwen’s British accent, but Eliza was used to it now.
“I’m not fretting. I’m pissing and moaning. Get it right! Do you have any idea how hot these dresses are going to be outside in the smoldering heat?”
Gwen displayed perfect teeth as she smiled. She pivoted in a circle, reached into a large bag from the bridal knick-knack store they’d found the day before, and removed two white and gold folding lace fans. “I thought of that.”
Well, at least it isn’t a parasol.
Gwen handed her the fan and turned to the bag again. Out came two perfectly matched frilly umbrellas.
“Ugh! I spoke to soon.”
Eliza refrained from rolling her eyes as she reached for the parasol.
Why did it have to be yellow? Nobody wore yellow!
“You don’t like them.” Gwen’s arms dropped and her excited expression fell.
I hate ’em. “They’re very…country.” In a southern plantation kind of way. But Eliza couldn’t say that to Gwen. Pampered, rich, and completely naive, Gwen meant well. She executed poorly, but did it with a golden heart.
“Isn’t that what we’re going for, country?”
Eliza opened the sunny umbrella and forced a smile to her lips. “This does say country.”
“Splendid. I think we have all we need then.” Oblivious to Eliza’s unease, Gwen continued removing small trinkets from her bag, perfectly matching earrings, necklaces, and yes, even ribbons for their hair. Eliza started to think she’d look like a buttercup on top of the cake by the time Gwen finished. “Oh, look at the time. We need to run,” Gwen said.
“I thought we were done.”
“We need to make another pass at the ranch and assure Neil that security won’t be a problem.” Neil, Sam and Blake’s personal bodyguard, was built like a brick house, completely immovable if he wanted to stay in place. He smiled so seldom Eliza hadn’t known he had teeth until after she’d known him for six months.
“Can’t Neil check it out himself?” She was hoping for a cocktail in the hotel bar, followed by a hot bath in the penthouse suite. While in Texas, she was working on finding new clients for Alliance. Men and women. Samantha founded the elite matchmaking firm and brought Eliza on as full partner after she married Blake. In the past two years, Eliza had recruited over a dozen women and matched three couples. Unlike other matchmaking companies, Alliance matched couples based on their life goals, not for love or a happily ever after. There were men out there who wanted a wife as a status symbol, or needed a temporary partner to obtain a job or promotion. In Samantha’s case, she and Blake married because of a mandate in Blake’s father’s will. As it turned out, the two fell recklessly in love with each other and had Eddie before their first anniversary.
Eliza was always on the lookout for new clients. What better place than Texas, where the men were often rich, and the women were perfectly polished and sometimes available.
“You know how difficult Neil can be. I’ll need to convince him the paparazzi won’t make it past the gates.”
The taste of that cocktail was drifting farther away. Eliza reached into her purse and grasped a clip before piling her shoulder-length, hair high on her head. The humidity had flattened it to nothing on their earlier excursion. No use pretending her hair would cooperate after more assaulting heat.
“Okay, let’s go. But I’m driving.”
Gwen was used to having a hotel driver taking her wherever she wanted to go. She said she didn’t like to drive in the States because of the cars being on the opposite side of the road. Eliza didn’t care for the dependence on another driver to get her around so she’d opted to rent a car.
Thirty minutes later, they were driving down a Texas highway in a compact rental car. The air conditioner running at full speed hardly made a dent in the oppressive heat. Eliza clutched her fist and hit the top of the dashboard. “I don’t think the air is working right.”
Gwen sat quietly in her seat, using the folding fan she’d bought for the wedding. “It’s not far. We’ll survive.”
Yeah, but the heat was weighing on Eliza’s nerves, not to mention her shirt was sticking to the back of the seat. Considering Gwen was from Europe, Eliza was surprised she wasn’t full of complaints.